Canadian indie-rock legends Arcade Fire have announced their forthcoming sixth studio album WE, which will arrive on May 6 via Columbia Records. The band had teased the follow-up to 2017’s Everything Now over the past few weeks with cryptic messages to fans through the mail, but have now confirmed that the album is coming, sharing lead single “The Lightning I, II” and a video for the track directed by Emily Kai Bock.
Co-produced by band members Régine Chassagne and Win Butler with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, WE was recorded across multiple locations, including New Orleans, El Paso and Mount Desert Island. It marked “the longest we’ve ever spent writing, uninterrupted, probably ever,” said Butler in a statement. The album’s two sides, titled “I” and “WE” will aim to channel “the fear and loneliness of isolation” and “the joy and power of reconnection,” respectively. Highlighting what Arcade Fire does best, “The Lightning I, II” serves as the perfect introduction to the world of WE by feeling as anthemic and full of life as anything the band have put out during their 21 years together. The video plays with the track’s two distinct halves, showing the band performing the ballad-like first section in front of a balloon and tinsel backdrop before a tornado uproots the entire production for the song’s faster second section, giving them the room to (both physically and musically) tear through what remains at the end of the storm.
In a message posted to the band’s website, Win Butler had this to say about the lead single and its video:
What will the light bring ? WE are so excited to present our new song, “The Lightning I, II” It was recorded with Nigel Godrich in El Paso, TX in the shadow of the Mexican border wall, which lay unfinished at the edge of the property.It was peak Covid. El Paso was the epicenter in the U.S. at that time, they were using prison inmates to move bodies to the overfull morgues, because the healthcare system was completely overwhelmed. I’ll never forget finishing the take and walking straight to our outdoor communal space where we had screwed a television into a tree so we could watch election results outside, to see the news that Trump had lost the election.
The emotion in the vocal was inspired by the Haitian immigrants that were amassing on the US border, after boarding ships from Haiti and walking from as far as Brazil for a chance at freedom, only to be met with whips and dogs and officers on horseback. I was lyrically inspired by the optimism I see in my child living in paradise “beneath a poison sky”. But mostly WE wanted to play the song so fast and hard that you can’t breathe when it’s over… with the realization that you can’t win them all, even when you give it all.
A 4th place anthem. And a reminder that “A day, a week, a month, a year, every second brings me here.” The video directed by our friend (and fellow Montreal DIY scene alum) Emily Kai Bock expresses the feeling of the last two years: trying to make grand plans only to have the storms of life force you to improvise.
Check out the video for “The Lightning I, II” below, and keep scrolling for WE album details. You can preorder the album here, and revisit our ranking of the best Arcade Fire tracks here.
WE Album Art:
1. Age of Anxiety I
2. Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)
3. End of the Empire I-IV
4. The Lightning I, II
5. Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)
6. Unconditional II (Race and Religion)